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No New Nobility: Taenish Peerage Examined

by Artorious Hathwillow [4TE:129]

ON THE DEMARCATION OF PEERAGE

The Noble Houses of Taen are fundamental to understanding the political structure of the Kingdoms as a whole; at least the equal of the Church of Ondarin in terms of cultural sway. It may be useful to think of the Noble Houses in terms of Great and Minor, as other historians have done, but the natural ebb and flow of power is not as useful a metric to mark the impact of these institutions. Rather, there are, at present, two broad categories under which the various Houses fit- new peerage, and original peerage.

The original peerage is the easiest to demarcate; those Houses which owe their nobility to Taen the Conqueror, generally for aid and fealty rendered during his campaign against the Elvish Shaan Empire. Of these, the most notable are the Great Houses Godfrey, Draegar, and Jordayne.

In the second part of this treatise I will endeavor to explore the 'new' peerage which established, variously, House Bryce, House Banmor, and most recently House Reed. In this case, new peerage does not owe itself to the origina conquests by Taen, being granted at a later date by a High King's decree.

PART ONE: ORIGINAL PEERAGE

Great House Godfrey

Generally accepted to descend from the lineage of one Hoster Goodfray, this is one of the oldest noble families in Taen. Records from the 1st Era indicate that a Goodfray family was instrumental in the final days of Taen's conquest. Bill Rattlepike's famous work "The Fall of Elfhome" tends to elevate the Goodfrey family's contribution, but a history written in 2TE:13-14 "Doom of Elves" (upon which Rattlepike undoubtedly relied) describes someone identified as Hather Goodfrey leading the baggage train into Elfhome after its conquest. In Bill Rattlepike's famous work. Important work, but certainly not glorious.

In 2TE:1, King Drussis of Taensrock renamed the city Godsrock - coinciding with his published Book of Ondarin, laying the foundations of the contemporary Church of Ondarin - and with it, the Great House Goodfray became Godfrey. House Godfrey would go on to unite the original provinces of the Taenish Empire from the 1st Era, and continues to rule the modern Taenish Kingdoms even now.

Great House Draegar

Though at least as old, the Noble House of Draegar does not have nearly as impactful a history as House Godfrey. It is in fact a point of contention repeatedly evidenced that the descendants of Lord Cael Draegar feel themselves cheated of some greater destiny. Lord Cael Draegar was a well documented leader of the Blackcrag Thanes during the 1st Era. It is unknown precisely why his people swore fealty to Taen the Conqueror, but theories have been put forth that Lord Draegar saw the Human rebellion against the Elves as an opportunity to right some perceived wrongs. Given the various oppressions and atrocities attributed to the Shaan Empire, this is perhaps no great leap to conclude that the Blackcrag Thanes had a bone to pick with their Elvish overlords.

In any case, the Blackcrag Thanes were gifted the curved Spine of the World Mountains as their province in the 1st Era. Cael Draegar would go on to found both Caelmonte and Drakemonte within his lifetime; both these fortresses guarding rich veins of ore which has been the source of House Draegar wealth ever since.

After the dissolution of the Taenish Empire in 1TE:79, the Cragmen generally kept to themselves and there are few records of trade between them and nearby Godsrock. Some scholars have pointed to evidence that the Dwarves of Zakhad did some trade with Blackcrag (see "The Low King" by Ffineus Acheo) but that evidence is dubious at best. The Cragmen resisted the High King's attempt at reunification between 2TE:12-19 but eventually swore fealty after a treaty following the Siege of Blackcrag.

Ever since, House Draegar has been the picture of Taenish loyalty- owed no doubt to its frequent marriage into the royal family; nearly all the Queens in the 3rd Era came from House Draegar. No doubt the ever evident wealth of House Draegar has informed so many of those marriage contracts. As Bill Rattlepike noted in one of his characters, Malstaff the Fool, "Your eastling girl, good king, would hay a pretty face/ but a craggy woman's gold".

House Jordayne

The history of the now-defunct House Jordayne carries with it a great deal of politically problematic material. For one, they are the only Noble House to have been 'decimated'; an ancient tradition predating the fall of the Shaan Empire which sees an offending family reduced to one tenth of its size, the survivors being solely women who are then married off into other families. The destruction, then, of any heritable line is complete.

In House Jordayne's case, the decimation came down by royal decree from High-King Johannus the Just during his war of re-unification. There were several political factors to be considered; House Jordayne's relationship with the Elves of Prevontus and the Wood Elf Territories apparently worried the High King, who feared an Elvish invasion if his conquest of the Greenwold was not total. Moreover, House Jordayne had married into the Satrapies of the Stahlmen - Human tribes which had appropriated a great deal of Wood Elf culture following the fall of the Shaan Empire - and tracing the heritable line was becoming increasingly difficult. More broadly, however, House Jordayne had over the years moved away from the 'mainstream' Taenish culture - which now included Ondarinism - and that culture was one which Johannus the Just championed as a means to re-unify the old Taenish Empire.

In any case, the destruction of House Jordayne - and its replacement by House Bryce - makes it difficult to solidify its historical origins. We know from "Doom of Elves" that there was a Jordayne Coster in Taen's retinue, and that a 'Chaster Jordayne' was given some laurels following the Battle of Elfhome for fighting side by side with Taen. Looking to other sources, it has been suggested by several poetic works dating to the early 2nd Era that Kafftor Jordayne was the man who brought the Stahlmen tribes over to Taen's side shortly before the final battle outside Elfhome's gates. We may never be entirely certain.


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PART TWO: NEW PEERAGE

House Bryce

In 2TE:20, an unlanded noble by the name of Gregor Bryce was serving in the council of High King Silus the Frowner during his campaign against House Jordayne. Having been crowned in the middle of a war started by his father, Johannus, High King Silus faced the question of whether he would pursue his father's war or not. Ultimately, he chose not only to continue the re-unification war against House Jordayne, but to start another against the fledgling region of Redwater to the South. Faced with the difficult position of a war on two fronts, Silus apparently sought council on how to quickly end things with House Jordayne. Gregor Bryce's advice to deal with House Jordayne was simple; "There is but one reward for a traitor to the race". At Bryce's advice, Silus no longer accepted quarter or parlay with the nobles of House Jordayne. Each member of the family he captured was put to the sword. Desperation soon set in, and Godsrock forces were able to capitalize on a series of strategic blunders made thereafter. Within the year, all members of House Jordayne had been captured and subjected to the ancient custom of 'decimation'. Gregor Bryce successfully lobbied to marry one of the Jordayne widows, and was rewarded with the elevation of his family to Great House.

Ever since, House Bryce has been at the forefront of the various historical atrocotious committed against the Stahlmen natives of the Greenwold. In 2TE:22 House Bryce worked with the First Ondarinist Inquisition to root out the entrenched Stahlic culture of the Greenwold. It wasn't until Satrap Glyyn publically immolated himself in the open court at Kings' Sheathe that Silus called for an end to the Inquisition. All the same, House Bryce was again involved with the Inquisition of the 3rd Era, and even now in the 4th Era has lobbied at least once to outlaw certain traditionally Stahlic practices and folk-traditions. Part of this is the Bryce's longstanding piety and investment in the Church of Ondarin; as the popular wisdom goes in the Greenwold, when Ondarin calls for blood you can be sure a Bryce will answer.

House Banmor